The other day, I was out for a jog when I saw an attractive jogger coming towards me.
I’m a married father, and I have no interest in pleasing or impressing any girls other than my wife and daughter. But I spent so long pleasing other people, trying to impress others, that still my stupid little scared-high-school-kid persona started freaking out. Jog better! Suck in your belly! Make sure you aren’t running stupid! he screams at me, panicking, desperately hoping to impress her.
So I have to combat that voice, the same voice that dominated my thinking for nearly 15 years. So what did I do?
I scratched my butt.
I looked my fear of looking stupid in the face, and then I did something that made me look stupid. Because that’s what I need to do to kill that voice.
Sometimes I yawn. Or burp a little. Or fart.
Anything to squash that stupid desire to please people.
For years, I hid my intense fear of looking stupid in front of others, and called it “being polite.”
If a jerk cut me in line, or if a condescending coworker made fun of me in a meeting, or if some bully made subtle threats about physically dominating me…I wouldn’t do anything. I’d let it slide. I became a doormat, and anyone could walk all over me. And they did.
I called it being “tactful” and “socially-aware.”
But what I didn’t tell people — the truth I didn’t even want to admit to myself:
I was terrified of people.
Other people, even the ones I disliked the most, had enormous power over me. They were essentially puppet masters, and I was Pinocchio. And I hated them. But I left the house every day ready to dance on my strings at the slightest sign.
It was horrible. I hated it. I hated myself. I told myself I was just being polite, but deep down, I knew I was a coward. I knew I wouldn’t stand up for myself, or speak up if someone was disrespectful or rude.
Now, I relish looking stupid in front of people. It feels so good to walk into any room, any interview, any bar, and not give a damn about looking stupid. Honestly, it’s one of the most freeing feelings in the whole world.
See, I spent so long letting other people judge me, pretending and acting for other people so they’d like me, that I never showed me real self. And when I can be fully authentic now, it’s incredible. I never want to go back to people-pleasing.
Funny, it was the people I disliked the most — the bullies, the stuck-up pretty girls, the cool kids — that I spent the most time trying to please. How stupid is that?!
So if you want to have ultra-confidence, there’s one thing you need to start doing immediately:
Scratch your butt in public.
If You’re Willing To Look Stupid For Long Enough, You’ll Eventually Become a Millionaire
I’ve recently read a ton of autobiographies of really famous people — celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Ray Allen, Michelle Obama, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, etc.
Most of them are millionaires, at least.
And all of them had to look stupid for a long time before they finally got it right.
But they eventually got it right. And the only way you’ll start getting things right is by trying, failing, experimenting, failing, and learning, usually in front of other people. Which means you’re probably going to get laughed at in the process.
The problem is, most people are afraid of looking stupid, and aren’t even willing to risk public humiliation. It’s painful, embarrassing, and people laugh at you. It’s not a nice feeling.
But if you can train yourself to become someone who is OK looking stupid…you’re going to enter the top 1% of the world very soon. Because if you live like no one else is living today, eventually, you’ll be able to live like no one else.
Fear of looking stupid is the #1 killer of dreams. I lived for years achieving none of my dreams, because I was too busy trying to please the very people who laughed at me the most.
If there’s a better definition of insanity, I’d like to hear it.
See, the people who make you feel stupid are usually the ones least qualified to judge someone else’s life. Their own lives are falling apart, yet they constantly tear down others around them.
I was talking with my friend the other day, and he told me about an incident in 1st grade that would shape his life for the next 20 years.
There were several large rocks outside my friend’s classroom. The “cool kid” of the class was showing off, hopping from rock to rock with grace and agility.
My friend saw his classmates’ admiration and awe and wanted that for himself. So, he tried to hop from one rock to another. However, he slipped and fell in the dirt. When he got up, his entire bottom was covered in mud.
My friend told me that to this day, he could still remember the sound of their jeering and laughter at his failure. He said he’s been deathly afraid of trying new, potentially-embarrassing things ever since that day in 1st grade.
Most people are living on someone else’s terms — avoiding ridicule and potential embarrassment. In most cases, this mindset comes from early memories or childhood. It’s crazy how much power these little memories have over us; how much power we’ve given to others, just so they wouldn’t laugh at us.
But you don’t have to be afraid anymore. You don’t have to live in fear, living reactively in a way that avoids embarrassment.
How To Stop Being Afraid of Looking Stupid
“You cannot allow the actions of others to define your reality.” -Steven Pressfield
In his iconic Ted Talk, Jia Jiang discussed how he created and practiced his very own “rejection therapy” system, intentionally placing himself in situations where he would look foolish to overcome his fear of rejection.
He might ask his favorite fast-food chain for a free “burger refill” (it’s what it sounds like). Or ask a complete stranger to borrow $100. He knocked on someone’s door and asked if he could kick a soccer ball around in their backyard. In his most famous experiment, he asked a Krispy Kreme cashier if she could create a donut resembling the 5 Olympic rings.
What did he learn from practicing looking like an idiot?
Don’t be embarrassed.
Embarrassment is limiting, and its very nature is to make you hide in the dark, forever avoiding scenarios where you might look foolish. But it’s those exact scenarios where you’ll discover the greatest breakthroughs.
If you want to be successful, you have to shed off this immature attitude and fully lean into being and doing whatever you want without fear or what others might think.
Other entrepreneurs and influencers have recognized just how damaging embarrassment can be, and have actively made steps to break their fear of it.
In his landmark book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris tells how he began attending high-end parties and events wearing a ridiculous outfit (clown shoes, suspenders, gaudy hats, plastic jewelry, etc.) just to practice being embarrassed.
What Ferris was learning was that embarrassment (essentially, fear of rejection from others) is supremely limiting. Embarrassment will call the shots, if you let it. And those shots always bring you down.
This fear must be destroyed if you want to truly resonate with others.
Embarrassment must be destroyed if you want to be truly successful.
“Once in a while, it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” — Alan Keightly
One of the worst parts of growing up was getting laughed at by my mean classmates even though I spent most of my time trying to impress these terrible people.
Now, I embrace looking stupid. I focus on being truly myself.
It’s hard, because I always want to revert back to my old ways. That old voice still comes creeping in my head, trying to get me to focus on impressing others.
So I scratch my butt in public, or burp, or whatever. It’s not about being impolite or rude, it’s about unlearning negative patterns of people-pleasing by doing the thing you’re afraid of.
For some people, the fear of others and getting laughed at is so strong, you have to fight it with extreme measures. You have to learn how to be unafraid of looking stupid.
The reason most people are stuck is because it’s just easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Changing is hard, even if your life sucks.
But you have to fight that inertia, and start moving in a new direction; one focused on being authentic, genuine, and loving yourself for who you are.
I can’t think of a better way to live your life.
Don’t fear being different — fear fitting in with mediocrity.
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